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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

McClatchy's Strobel:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush say they're not pressing for a quick cease-fire in Lebanon because they want a lasting peace instead.

However, the administration's fundamental assumptions - that it's impossible to get both a quick end to the killings and a durable peace, and that a cease-fire would be a step away from real peace rather than toward it - are open to question.


The logic, such as it is, employed by Bush and Condi is that since cease-fires have been broken in the past, it is the cease-fires themselves that are the impediment to peace. No cease-fires ergo no broken cease-fires. It's sort of like saying that red lights are the reason drivers run red lights. Remove the traffic lights and, presto, drivers aren't running red lights anymore. Just ignore the carnage at intersections.

Following up on the post below about Duke Cunningham's escapades while on the House intelligence committee (as opposed to his better known misdeeds as a member of the Appropriations Committee), pay special attention to this remark from Intel Chair Pete Hoekstra:

Hoekstra said [investigator] Stern, as a final step, wants to interview Cunningham in prison to find out more about how he influenced the system. The Justice Department is resisting because it has other potential prosecutions pending in the case, so Hoekstra is considering subpoenaing the former lawmaker.


Let's see. Major federal investigation into public corruption. GOP lawmakers and lobbyists top the list of targets. Feds want the Intel Committee to leave one of their important witnesses alone. GOP chairman considers issuing subpoena to the imprisoned Cunningham anyway.

I'm not saying Hoekstra is using his committee to impede a federal investigation, but I'm reminded of the John Poinxdexter conviction in Iran-Contra, which was thrown out on appeal due to the concurrent congressional investigation.

Here's a shocker:

An independent investigation has found that imprisoned former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham took advantage of secrecy and badgered congressional aides to help slip items into classified bills that would benefit him and his associates.

The finding comes from Michael Stern, an outside investigator hired by the House Intelligence Committee to look into how Cunningham was able to carry out the scheme. Stern is working with the committee to fix vulnerabilities in the way top-secret legislation is written, said congressional officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the committee still is being briefed on Stern's findings. . . . Stern has told the committee that Cunningham's efforts to steer business to friends and associates were far worse in the spending bills written by the House Appropriations Committee than those written by the House Intelligence Committee, congressional officials say. But the intelligence panel that draws up the blueprint for spending by the government's spy agencies was not immune to his misdeeds.

CNN's John Roberts: "Typically Middle East conflicts don't usually have much of an affect on us here in the United States, but the world is changing."

And this guy didn't get the CBS anchor job? Go figure.

Special thanks to TPM Reader SC.

GOP planning for doomsday: "[O]ne presidential adviser wants Bush to beef up his counsel's office for the tangle of investigations that a Democrat-controlled House might pursue."

TPM Reader MK checks in:

What I find inexplicable is the Israeli bombing of Beirut. I can understand, from their point of view, wanting to create a buffer zone on their border; I cannot understand bombing and chasing out of Lebanon the only counter force to Hezbollah within Lebanon. Thanks to Israeli bombardment everyone with a passport and money is leaving; those that remain are the Shiite base of Hezbollah.

I have heard ANC speakers say why they never did terrorists acts. They said they were out to divide the enemy not unite them. Not so long ago the very people Israel is forcing out of Lebanon were in the streets demonstrating against the Syrian occupation. Now Israel is thanking them with bombs.

From TPM Reader VM:

I'm surprised that you didn't link your thoughts about the Incumbent Party with your thoughts about a challenge to Pelosi if the Democrats failed to win the House.

After all, you're right that the political climate is right for a major sweep. The biggest challenge, though, is that the 2000 redistricting was controlled by the Incumbent Party. There are, simply put, too few competitive seats to allow for a sea-change in control of the House.

And Pelosi (who I like on many other fronts) is one of the key leaders in preserving safe districts for incumbents. Redistricting in California alone could have created enough competitive seats to switch partisan control. But Pelosi went all-out trying to prevent reforms in her home state that would have created competitive districts.

If the Democrats fail to win the House in November, a fair amount of blame should go to Pelosi's yeoman support of the Incumbent Party's redistricting strategy.


Late Update: Another reader responds:

Very important fact you left out in blaming Pelosi for a go-along approach to California redistricting - it takes 2/3 approval to get redistricting through the state legislature - the GOP had 35% of one house, 40% of the other - there was no way a Texas-like redo was possible. You need to include this if you are going to analyze what happened here.

Ken Silverstein has posted an interview with Wayne White, Deputy Director of the State Department's Office of Middle East and South Asia Analysis until March 2005, on the crisis in the Middle East. Some excerpts:

I believe [Condi's] activities have been tailored to give the impression of action while not designed to make any real progress toward the urgent ceasefire that should be everyone's highest priority.

. . .

[N]ot learning from the American experience in Iraq that trying to crush a guerrilla movement with conventional military force involving significant—and in this case, even deliberate—collateral casualties and damage might only generate thousands of other potential fighters bearing various grievances, the IDF could find itself mired in the same sort of seemingly open-ended confrontation.

. . .

With respect to another extremely serious consequence of not working to bring this carnage to an early end, Lebanon already has absorbed billions of dollars of damage. By the end of the crisis, the cost of rebuilding Lebanon will be incredibly high and the rebuilding effort quite prolonged, leaving most Lebanese, aside perhaps from the hard-core Christian right, considerably more hostile to Israel—and the United States—than ever before. In this respect, I find scenes of devastated Lebanese urban areas not only appalling, but frightening.


Yes, that about sums it up. Feeling depressed yet? What if I reminded you that as of last Thursday, we're still 2 1/2 years away from a new Administration?

A new Human Rights Watch report out today collects accounts from soldiers in Iraq who participated in and witnessed detainee abuse.

You won't be surprised by the findings, which Human Rights Watch says show that the abuse was not merely conducted by a few aberrants but was sanctioned up the chain of commnd. I was struck, however, by the existence of written documentation authorizing the abuse:

In March 2004, when Lagouranis and another interrogator voiced concerns about the techniques, their supervising MI officer provided them with an Interrogation Rules of Engagement card, authorizing the use of dogs, exposure to hot and cold temperatures, sleep deprivation, forced exercises and use of painful stress positions, and environmental manipulation (allowing strobe lights and loud music):

When we were doing that stuff it was under the direction of Chief Warrant Officer [name withheld]; he was telling us, this is what he wants. But when he told us this, you know, of course, we got a little worried. So we asked for IROE [Interrogation Rules of Engagement] and he gave us the IROE that his unit was supposedly using.

I think it was sort of an outdated IROE now that I think about it, because I felt—because I saw others later that were different. I think he was using one from Afghanistan or something like that. But everything that he said, as far as I could tell, was it was legal on the IROE [i.e., the techniques were detailed in the IROE:] that we could use dogs, we could use environmental manipulation, sleep deprivation, sort of stress positions. But who knows—I don't know if it was legal or not, what we were doing.
Then there's this account:
There was an authorization template on a computer, a sheet that you would print out, or actually just type it in. And it was a checklist. And it was all already typed out for you, environmental controls, hot and cold, you know, strobe lights, music, so forth. Working dogs, which, when I was there, wasn’t being used. But you would just check what you want to use off, and if you planned on using a harsh interrogation you’d just get it signed off.

I never saw a sheet that wasn’t signed. It would be signed off by the commander, whoever that was, whether it was 03 [captain] or 06 [colonel], whoever was in charge at the time. . . . When the 06 was there, yeah, he would sign off on that. . . . He would sign off on that every time it was done.


The bureaucracy of torture.

The deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan continues:

Taliban militants warned Afghans on Sunday to keep away from foreign troops as they planned more attacks, a day after a twin suicide strike against a Canadian patrol killed at least five locals.

The threat of more such attacks, made by a Taliban spokesman in a phone call to Reuters, comes a week before the 26-nation NATO alliance takes on security from a U.S.-led force in southern Afghanistan, its most dangerous assignment in its history.

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